A lot of DIY projects come with the advice, ‘measure twice, cut once’ but wallpapering is perhaps the most pertinent project on which to heed this advice. Wallpaper is not always the most affordable way to cover your walls and so you want to be extra careful not to make silly mistakes and have to rebuy a roll. Not only this, but, as our Deputy Decoration Editor Rémy Mishon advises, you need to buy all your wallpaper at once to ensure it's from the same batch (so that the colours when you switch to a new roll match exactly).
Wallpapering is not a job to undertake if you don't have patience – it takes time and needs to be done properly but it can be done properly without the need of a professional, even with a pattern repeat to take into consideration.
The tools you need to DIY wallpaper
Stepladder or stool
Flat surface (such as a table) for cutting paper
Sandpaper (to prep the walls)
Bowl of warm water
Kate Hawkins of CommonRoom on How to DIY Wallpaper
“I think my top tip is don’t be scared. It’s all very doable but just take your time and don’t rush”, says Kate Hawkins.
Before you begin make sure you have enough time and enough rolls of paper to finish the job! Also double check what paper you are using (paste the wall or paste the paper), and check you’ve got everything you need in terms of tools and paste. Also triple-check the rolls are from the same batch and not damaged or faulty in any way.
Check your walls are in good condition – don’t even attempt to wallpaper if there are any signs of damp as it will not stay on. If they are bumpy it’s also not a great idea to use wallpaper but if this is the case and you’re desperate for a dash of pattern and colour you could try a wallpaper border instead.
Also take the time to really understand how and where the wallpaper repeats. This will make everything a lot smoother once you start and will hopefully stop you making silly mistakes like trimming drops too short etc.
I would always prioritise the repeat lining up perfectly at eye level. In an ideal world it should line up perfectly from top to bottom but it doesn’t always work this way, especially if you have slightly wonky walls or the paper has been a weeny bit stretched while wet. But if it lines up at eye level but is 1mm out at the very top or bottom of the wall then it shouldn’t bother you too much.
My secret tip is get yourself a plumb-line. These are very simple but rather magical bits of kits. I’ve still got my Dad’s from when we started the business and he helped me hang some of the first wallpapers. They really help keep your drops lovely and straight. Also I’m a bit fan of step stools as opposed to ladders – providing they give you the height you need.
Fee Greening’s ‘Climbing Curios’ wallpaper from CommonRoom and her mural around the ‘Coral’ wall light from Balineum provide a unique backdrop in this 17th-century Cotswold farmhouse
A DIYer's own advice from Fiona McKenzie Johnston
Good quality lining paper (yes, you’re wallpapering twice, but it’s going to look much better – and it also means that you don’t need to paint over green/ blue/red walls first)
A cutting mat – A1 size is great, and if you can get one with lines on it, that will help you cut straight lines
A Stanley knife with a quick change blade as they blunt quickly when cutting paper – so you’ll also need a bumper pack of Stanley blades (you can wrap the old ones in lining paper off-cuts so they don’t go through your rubbish bags)
A good quality steel rule, 100cm, and a large steel square
A spirit level
A seam roller
A decent amount of floor space
How to DIY wallpaper
Photograph and measure where all your pictures are hanging before you take them down – this means it’s easy to put them back up, without putting multiple holes in the wallpaper.
It’s also worth taking the skirting boards off before you start, as you’ll get a tidier finish.
It’s going to take longer than you think, because you need to wait a couple of days for the lining paper to dry before you can put the wallpaper on top.
Incidentally, if you can’t get the lining paper to line up, possibly because you have really old, bulgy walls: STOP - give up, and call a professional, this is not the DIY task for you.
Think about your pattern and start in the darkest corner, because you may not meet it perfectly on the return, and you don’t want the join to be in the middle of a wall. (There are ways of getting around the join but I haven’t mastered that yet.)
Also think about your pattern if there are people or animals in it – you don’t want to have headless people or animals at the top of your wall.
The greater the drop on the repeat, the more paper you’re going to use – and you’re going to need more than you think anyway. Off-cuts can be used to make lampshades, Christmas decorations, paper stars – and can line drawers and shelves, so although there is wastage, you can employ it.
Cut the sheet close to the correct length before you put it up, with 5-10cm extra at each end for safety’s sake (you can trim it easily, but making it longer is a pain) and then put it on the pre-pasted wall (unless your paper specifically says you should paste directly onto the paper.)
You want to get the sheets as close together as you can, and use a seam roller for a perfect finish – if you find you’ve got too big a gap and it’s noticeable, you can fill it (you need ultra fine filler) and paint in the missing pattern (if you can find a colour match). It’s fiddly, but it’ll look good.
If you make a mistake, you can easily slide the paper off the wall while it’s still wet and you’ll be able to re-use it.
At the end – this is a tip I got from Mary and Nicole at Salvesen Graham – use a trim (a braid or a fabric or just some ribbon) at the top of the room and round any unmet edges (i.e. over the opening in a wall) which tidies it all up nicely.
Our decoration team's advice
Make sure you account for the pattern repeat (if using a patterned wallpaper) when working out your quantities before you buy – there's more wastage with a pattern as you have to match the repeats as you hang it and won't be able to use smaller scraps for that reason.
Don't overestimate how must wastage you might need to account for (the methods for doing very specific things such as the inside edges of window openings can be very wallpaper-consuming, especially if you have a big pattern to match up).
Keep cleaning your tools... clean the table down in between pasting drops, keep rinsing off your cloths and cleaning your smoother brush and seam-roller.
Take it slow but having said all that, it is a lot easier than it used to be; papers are thicker, making them much harder to tear and less likely to bubble.
This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK